In this multiple part series, I will share with you some of my favorite tips and tricks for making your range experience enjoyable and safe. Over the next several weeks, I will share with you a different tip in each post. Your range is your place to practice your craft and hone your skills. While no ranges are exactly the same, there are some general rules and best practices that will keep you out of trouble and help you get the most value and enjoyment out of your time there. So you’ve got your lipstick on, guns packed, and are off to the range….now what? This week, we will talk a bit about dealing with the “tough stuff” at the range.
I’ve been pondering how exactly to write this post for weeks. It isn’t easy to admit there are faults in the little corner of Heaven I call the range, but of course there are. No place is perfect, and the range is no exception. After all these years, I have seen and encountered quite a bit of “uncomfortable” or “awkward” moments at the range — just as you might in any social setting. I’ve also developed my own coping skills. I thought I would share them with you.
The Five Difficult Personalities You May Meet at the Range and How I Deal with Them
Tough Stuff Scenario 1: People Who Have Different Political Views Than You And Want to Talk Politics
I’ll confess I am probably a little more liberal than most of my shooting pals. Most of the time this is not a big deal because my hot button issues aren’t typical range conversation. People typically stay away from religion and politics in a mixed setting. That said, sometimes a friendly person at the range will suddenly launch into a political rant, catching me off guard. This almost never happens with people I know, but sometimes it comes out in small talk. I think it is a result of spending a decent amount of time with someone you don’t yet know well. You can only talk about the weather for so long, right? This means you might find yourself standing with a perfectly friendly person who is suddenly saying something with which you just DO NOT agree. It can be awkward.
Most of the time, I smile and nod without agreeing or disagreeing. This usually indicates I am not into continuing the conversation and I am able to easily change the subject. This works really well 95% of the time. I’m careful to never agree with something I don’t believe but I also remind myself that I am unlikely to change someone’s opinion in 10 minutes of conversation at the range.
With that said, I recognize some issues are hard to ignore. If someone says something that is completely untrue I might say “I heard that too! However, I did some research at (insert credible source) and found out that vegetables do NOT actually cause cancer”.* This is usually enough to stop the conversation.
*example is intentionally absurd, please eat vegetables
If someone says something about which I cannot hold my tongue, I have been known to say “Oh come on, do you really think that?” or “Well, I completely disagree but that’s ok.” Most people won’t keep arguing with a stranger holding a gun. If they do, just walk away. Make yourself busy, shoot some targets, or load some magazines. I’ve never seen anyone get aggressive and, if they did, an RSO would see them out. People know this… they will drop it.
Ultimately, I just try to keep it cordial. Politics aren’t always the best conversation and the range is not a place for heated debate. Losing your cool will not help anyone and it won’t change anybody’s political views.
Tough Stuff Scenario 2: People Who Thinking Calling Others a Girl, Gay, Profanities, Sissy, Etc is an Acceptable and Appropriate Teasing Insult
This one happens more than I wish it did. There is nothing worse than hearing someone compared to a girl as an insult. Seriously, men of the world, it isn’t funny. Women can do pretty much anything men can do and the things they can’t are largely for anatomical reasons. You don’t see us making fun of you because you don’t have a womb. Cut it out.
I usually nip this in the bud by saying “you should be so lucky” or “um…I’m standing here.” Or even a loud throat clearing with a “I never took you to be sexist” calls enough attention to the situation to make it stop. And then I take out my frustration on the targets. I may have once said “that’s the patriarchy for you” at a match. Good news, the jokes about shooting like a girl have stopped.
Far less frequent (thank heavens) but worse yet, I have heard some very offensive slang bandied about in “jest.” Remember what I said about my hot button issues? It turns out hearing someone called “gay” or vulgar slang terms for gay is one of those issues. I don’t think I have it in me to listen to that nonsense.
The goods news is calling attention to this usually stops the behavior. Sadly, I don’t know if it makes the person in question think twice the next time — see above about changing someone’s opinion — however, I think comments like these require a polite but firm “please don’t use that word”. I’ve found most people find it offensive; so you’re doing everyone a favor.
Also, for any readers who may use these terms in jest sometimes, I can tell you here in black and white it is hurtful, cruel, and rude. Please stop. Impress people with much more clever jokes.
Tough Stuff Scenario 3: People Who Call You Cutesy Names (Even When They Don’t Know You)
It can be tricky to address this as usually there is no ill will meant by this behavior. Shooting, especially in competition, lends itself to communicating with people whose name you haven’t had the opportunity to commit to memory. In lieu of “hey you,” men tend to become Buddy, Pal, or even Son. We women can sometimes become “Honey” or “Sweetie”.
I’ve never seen this come from a place of trying to be condescending but it sure can feel that way when you are the one being called “Sweetie” by a complete stranger. I try to take a deep breath and remind myself this person probably doesn’t know my name. So I use it as an opportunity to introduce (or reintroduce) myself. For example:
Person: Hey Honey, you're up next.
Me: Thanks, I'm Erin, by the way, its nice to meet you. Thanks for helping out today.
This puts your name back in their mind and also sends the message you prefer your name to a generic saccharine moniker. I’ve never had this fail.
Tough Scenario 4: People Who Think They Know Everything and What You Are Doing, Buying, or Using is Wrong or Assume You are Incompetent Because You Are Young or a Woman
Some people really think they know everything. It is a real shame because I have learned more from the people around me than anywhere else. The friends I’ve made shooting have taught me so much and can diagnose why I am missing more easily than I can some days. I’m acutely aware that what I don’t know is exponentially greater than what I do. Sadly, not everyone is this aware and some think they know everything.
Is it Because I’m A Girl?
This tough situation shows itself in a couple different ways. The first way is when people assume you must be a beginner or have no clue what you are doing because you are female. Usually this is exhibited by speaking to your male companion other than you, making basic suggestions about things you are clearly experienced enough to know, or just generally talking down to you. Mr. SiL helps with this one by referring questions back to me and saying things like “you should ask Erin”. He has as little patience as I for this and just doesn’t engage. Typically, I am not super interested in the opinions of someone who thinks my sex makes me incompetent so I just make myself busy and move on.
Or is it Because You Know EVERYTHING (or think you do)?
The other way this one shows itself has very little to do with sexism and more to do with the person. Some people really think they know everything and that everyone wants to hear their opinion. This person will watch you learning to shoot and walk up to tell you everything you are doing is wrong. Do not confuse this with people who are being constructive. For example, walking up and saying “I am watching you shoot and I think your grip might be too loose, which is why you are missing” and then sticking around to show you is being helpful. These people are friends.
On the other hand, walking up and saying “why on Earth are you shooting a Springfield? They all suck. You need a Glock. You’ll never succeed if you don’t get a Glock” is the type of behavior I am referencing. Not only is it NOT helpful, it’s not even based in objective fact. See the sage advice of one Harry Callahan above.
You’ll occasionally meet people who seemingly enjoy telling you everything you do is wrong. They will question your equipment, technique, clothing, stance, and just about everything else. You’ll recognize this person by their opinion that there is only one way to do everything. Honestly, this one drives me nutty. I just say thanks and move on. Don’t argue, it won’t work.
Tough Stuff Scenario 4: Cliques
As I add this one, I realize I am guilty of exacerbating this problem on occasion. The good news is you will make friends. I cannot imagine a world without my shooting pals. The bad news is there will often be existing groups of people who know and love each other. If you are even a little bit shy (aren’t we all sometimes?) it can be intimidating.
Usually it isn’t hard to become part of the group. Just do the following:
1. Be friendly
2. Shoot safely and listen to the rules
3. Laugh at funny jokes
4. Stick around to help when appropriate
You’ll fit in quickly, I promise.
I hope you never experience any “uncomfortable” or “awkward” moments while hanging out at the range but if you do, I hope my hints are helpful. There’s no good reason to feed in. Have you experienced any of these types of people? How do you handle it?